Summary of Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei
This week we read the final two portions of Exodus, a book which began with the Jewish people enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt and now ends with the completion of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. This second book is referred to by the commentaries as the Book of Redemption, and that is the theme which runs throughout, from the beginning of Parshat Shmot to the end of Parshat Pekudei. Redemption was not achieved solely by escaping from slavery in Egypt; receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai gave purpose to that freedom, and the resting of Hashems presence amongst His nation (the result of completing the Mishkan) marks the climax of that salvation.
Parshat Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20) begins with Moses assembling the entire nation of Israel to transmit to them everything that Hashem commanded him about the construction of the Mishkan in the previous three Torah portions. However, Moses first cautions them yet again about the fundamental mitzvah to observe Shabbat, reminding them that although the construction of the Mishkan is of transcendent importance, it does not take precedence over the weekly observance of Shabbat. Only a day earlier, on Yom Kippur, Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the second set of tablets in hand, informing the people that they had been forgiven by Hashem for the devastating sin of worshipping the golden calf. In response to Moses call, the Children of Israel come forward with their generous contributions for the Mishkan, producing a surplus of supplies. The craftsmen are selected and the building begins, as the Torah describes in detail the fabrication of every aspect of the Mishkan.
Parshat Pekudei (ibid. 38:21-40:38) begins with a complete accounting of the gold, silver, and copper contributed by the people for use in the Mishkan. The Torah goes on to describe the weaving and crafting of the various vestments to be worn by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) during his service. Following Moses inspection and approval of the many utensils and unassembled parts, Moses completes the setup of the Mishkan on the first day of the month of Nissan, as each part is anointed and arranged in its proper location. And as Hashem promised, His glory fills the Mishkan.
In addition, this Shabbat is the fourth and final installation upon which we read a special maftir (additional Torah reading) in the series leading up to Passover. Parshat Hachodesh discusses the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a nation to sanctify every new month (Rosh Chodesh) and goes on to describe the korban Pesach (Paschal lamb) and other Passover mitzvot.
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